Findings from a recent study examined how residents on a newly built urban village located in the North-West of England, referred to here, as ‘Kindly Field’ used two Facebook groups (‘KF1’ and ‘KF2’) to negotiate differences and develop positive neighbourly relationships. Drawing on data from a sample of 70 respondents, the study found that both KF1 and KF2 played an important role in setting standards of neighbourly behaviour and establishing codes of conduct, although these were met with varied degrees of conformity by its members. What was clear though was that those who chose to actively use KF1 and KF2, found it to be a useful way of being able to create social bonds with other residents and importantly to stay connected whilst physically away from Kindly Field. The Facebook pages also allowed for the development of neighbourhood reciprocity and the strengthening of community spirit in Kindly Field, for example, by facilitating the development of behaviour linked to social capital and psychological wellbeing. The data found that despite spatial and social dispersion, social media can meaningfully connect likeminded strangers in positive and healthy ways, for instance, residents found KF1 and KF2 useful for a number of things, including learning about what is going on in the neighbourhood, meeting other residents, developing a sense of community, and for making positive changes about things they are unhappy with in Kindley Field. However, it is important to note that the data also suggests that this form of communication alone should not be taken as a substitute for offline relationships, which were considered by some of the participants to be more meaningful.
These findings speak to our health, wellbeing and society ICZ theme, given that they can help to contribute to the creation of social cohesion in the newly built urban village community, as well as facilitate health and wellbeing on a more individual level. Accordingly then, in addition to the preparation of academic dissemination (journal article and conference paper), the findings are especially pertinent to those in the home build design and development industry, who can use them to develop a strategy that can inform the long-term social sustainability of the newly built urban village – of which, according to plans announced last year (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-35217418), will be a growing feature of the UK’s housing landscape. Thus, an article outlining the findings and its relevance for industry will soon be published in ’24 Housing’ and ‘New Start’ – two popular industry based magazines. In addition, discussions are currently underway with the local Mayor and Council, where Kindly Field is based, to consider how the findings can be used to encourage greater use of social media in Kindly Field, as well as another new build urban village that is currently being constructed in the same town.
Working with home builders and home buyers to see how social media can create kinship and bonds in the neighbourhood – watch this space!